Last year, I did a post on World War I for Veterans Day as it had been 100 years, exactly, since the end of that war. I also covered how other countries memorialize and/or celebrate and, ended the post with two poems. I’ve written in a previous post about my almost Army brat status and referred to my significant other in this post.
Ken’s first foray into the ‘military’ was the Hargave Military Academy in Virginia. His mother sent him there for summer school to assist with grades after a poor eighth grade year. He stayed for his ninth grade year and did very well. Unfortunately, it was extremely expensive and he returned to regular high school for tenth grade.
At the end of his junior year, he’d had enough of regular high school and made it clear to his mother that he wanted to go into the Navy. The military was all he was interested in. So, at the tender age of 17, his mother signed him into service. He went into the reserves for two years and began to train as a Corpsman. His sea duties were aboard the USS Robinson (DD-562), a Fletcher Class destroyer, the second ship in the Navy to be named after Captain Isaiah Robinson (Continental Navy). The “Robbie” received eight battle stars for World War II service and appeared in the movie Away All Boats.
After two years of training, he went active duty…and the Navy lost its mind. Orders to report to his new ship in hand, he was sent to Charleston, SC, to be assigned to the USS Canisteo (AO-99), a Cimarron Class fleet oiler, named for the Canisteo River in New York and the only ship to bear that name. It’s crew received nine medals.
Unfortunately, upon his arrival, there was no ship to board. The Charleston Naval Base had no record of it being there and, in the meantime, he was sent to the transit barracks. While waiting, he volunteered to be a lifeguard for a week. The remaining time was spent waiting at the barracks. After three weeks, the Navy adjusted his orders and sent him to Norfolk Naval Base, the home port of the Canisteo. Upon arrival, no ship. He was, again, assigned to the transit barracks…until they could find the ship. After a four-day wait, the Navy adjusted his orders a second time and he was sent to the Brooklyn Naval Shipyard. The shipyard had no record of the Canisteo being there so, he was sent…a-gain…to the transit barracks. His ship was finally found at the Todd Shipyards in Red Hook Brooklyn, a civilian shipyard. With his orders in hand (now, a rather large portfolio of paperwork), stamped by the Navy (adjusted a third time), he headed to his ship. He reported to the Officer of the Deck and was told that he had been reported AWOL. The OOD examined the orders, informed him that his Corpsman striker slot had been filled due to his (unintended) absence and, just like that, he was transformed into part of the deck force, wiping out two years of training. He became a Bosun’s Mate striker. *facepalm*
He left active service in 1964 and rolled into the IRR, waiting for the end of his contract to expire. On March 8, 1965, Marines landed near Da Nang, marking the beginning of the ground war in Vietnam. Ken was working a full time job and was watching what was going on. By the summer of 1966, he decided that he was going to go back to the Navy, interested in the River Patrol (and PBRs) and went to see a prior service recruiter. The recruiter told him that the Navy would not give him his rank back. Ken left his office and was stopped by a Marine recruiter in the hallway. He told him to go back in and ask about the Seabees. He did so and the Navy prior service recruiter changed his tune. Off he went to Camp Endicott in Rhode Island for training. He was assigned to Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 74 and sent to Gulfport, Home of the Seabees.
He arrived in Vietnam in July of 1967. His base was Camp Haskins on Red Beach in Da Nang. The Marines were on Monkey Mountain across the bay and at Da Nang Air Base in the opposite direction, across the highway. At the beginning of the Tet Offensive, the bombing of the Air Base in January of 1968 nearly knocked Ken out of a guard tower. He was designated a builder and did his share of such but, spent most of his time running patrols with the Marines.
On November 3, 1967, a fellow Seabee had an accident with a saw while cutting some wood. A sawhorse shifted and the man injured himself, accidentally. The blade cut an artery in his thigh and Ken’s Corpsman training kicked in. He, literally, stuck his hand into the guy’s thigh to clamp the artery with his thumb and forefinger. When the rescue helicopter arrived, the coagulated blood on Ken’s arm prevented him from being able to remove his hand from the guy’s thigh. Ken got a free ride in the helicopter to the hospital with his charge. A life was saved (the actual details are pretty gruesome).
And, this concludes my long-ass tribute to my Fleet Navy/Vietnam Seabee veteran. If you have a veteran in your life…hug them. ~Vic
[Addendum: When I moved in with Ken some years ago, I was looking at his DD-214. He swore he only had one and I saw from the data that he had two. We sent off for his records and, sure enough, there were two. I discovered that, when he went to the prior service recruiter, the guy didn’t bother to check to see if Ken was still on contract. He was and, had he checked, Ken could have returned to the Navy, with rank intact, and left for Vietnam as part of the Brown Water Navy…and most likely died. The life span of PBR guys was fairly short.]
Seventy-five years ago, today, the #1 song on Billboard (pre-hot 100 era) was My Heart Tells Me (Should I Believe My Heart?) by Glen Gray, his Casa Loma Orchestra and singer Eugenie Baird. Written by Harry Warren (Lullaby of Broadway, Jeepers Creepers & That’s Amore) with lyrics by Mack Gordon (Chattanooga Choo-Choo), this was the theme for the 1943 musical film Sweet Rosie O’Grady. Betty Grable sang the song in the movie.
Glen Gray & his Orchestral version was number one for five weeks from January 29 to February 26, boosted by the popularity of the musical. As a popular standard for the 1940s, other well-known artists with their own versions include Etta Jones (1961), Frank Sinatra (1945), Nat King Cole (1958) and Tony Bennett (1955). Glenn Miller & his orchestra had a go in 1944, broadcasting to German soldiers. From Dance in the City (Page 191):
“One of the paradoxes of the Nazi terror was that SS officers themselves demonstrated a fondness for swing (Vogel, 1962).
Mike Zwerin (1985), in his exploration of jazz under the Nazis, described a Luftwaffe pilot who switched on the BBC hoping to catch a few bars of Glenn Miller before bombing the antenna from which these forbidden sounds were being broadcast. Allied propagandists recognised the potential for exploiting the contradictory allure that jazz possessed with Nazi society.
The sound barrier of 1944 was marked on the one hand by the music of the Nazi marches and on the other by the big band swing of Glenn Miller. The Allies attempted to exploit the popularity of swing inside Germany. On October 30, 1944, Miller’s swing tunes were aimed at German soldiers through the American Broadcast Station in Europe (ABSIE) in an effort to persuade them to lay down their arms.
Major Miller addressed German soldiers in their own language with the assistance of Ilse Weinberger, a German compere and translator. Ilse introduced Glenn Miller as the ‘magician of swing’ and, through a strange act of cultural alchemy, tunes like Long Ago and Far Away and My Heart Tells Me were rendered in German by vocalist Johnny Desmond.”
October 11, 1984, Kathryn Dwyer “Kathy” Sullivan became the first American woman astronaut during the STS-41-G mission to perform an EVA or an extravehicular activity (3.5 hours worth), which freely translates to a “space walk”. This was NASA‘s thirteenth flight in the Space Shuttle program and the sixth flight of the Challenger. She was the Mission Specialist 1 and had just turned 33 years of age eight days prior.
She received a Ph.D. in geology from Dalhousie University in 1978, became an Adjunct Professor of Geology at Rice University in 1985 and joined the Navy Reserves in 1988 as an Oceanography Officer, retiring after 18 years at the rank of Captain.
April 24, 1990, she served on board the Space Shuttle Discovery as a Mission Specialist 3 for the STS-31 mission that launched the Hubble Space Telescope. March 24, 1992, she served as Mission Specialist 1 during the STS-45 mission on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis. She was part of the Group 8 NASA Astronaut selection on January 16, 1978. She left NASA in 1993.
Other October 11 space-related trivia:
Alright, kiddies, we are traveling back to the past, again, for some more music. The #1 song sixty years ago, today, was a piece composed by Charles G. “Hell and Maria” Dawes in 1911, the future Vice President of Calvin Coolidge. It’s original name was “Melody In A Major”. Carl Sigman added lyrics in 1951 and Tommy Edwards recorded it. It was a so-so hit, then and, he re-recorded it in 1958. It is the only known #1 single in the U.S. to have been co-written by a U.S. Vice President and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate. Here is…It’s All In The Game.
And, the original 1951 version: